British forces fear influx of Americans may harm 'hearts and minds' campaign after Blackwater shootings in Iraq
By Kim Sengupta in Kabul
Published: 14 October 2007
The Independent. Large numbers of US private military personnel are expected to arrive in Helmand, the focal point of British involvement in Afghanistan, as part of a new effort to promote reconstruction and development in the war-torn province.
The US has contributed the largest sum to the new aid effort, over $200m. But British officials striving to win "hearts and minds" in the conflict against the Taliban have expressed concern over the potential influx of military contractors, amid a continuing furore over the shooting of civilians in Iraq by Blackwater.
As Nato troops reclaim territory from the Taliban, the movement has increasingly resorted to suicide attacks and roadside bombings. "The worry is that there will be a blast, and some contractors will panic and open fire, as happened with Blackwater in Baghdad. That is the very last thing that Helmand needs at the moment," said a Western diplomat.